BMT Day 13 – 21.3 miles (231.1 total)

It rained a lot from when I put my tent up last night to the morning, but the morning was clear and bright;  I was looking forward to a dry day.

Lots a forest roads today.

Actually, I don’t mind that the Wenaha River trail is in such terrible shape. I am now walking the ridge above the river and had a morning break at an amazing viewpoint, Big Hole. I’ve had probably 8 trucks pass me so far this morning, which is a lot of traffic, so when I look out on the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness in front of me and know there are no roads in there, and the trails are fire damaged and difficult thus limiting the number of humans that ever really go that deep into it, I’m glad. It’s a little refuge. From us. From me. And its ok…I’m still experiencing it up here…just in a different way.

This is going to be a short one folks…the terrain was scenic, the miles easy and not easy. I am set up on a highpoint with a view of something…I believe it’s where I’m going next. I’m looking into the future!

BMT Day 12 – 16.1 miles (209.8 total)

As we all know, the days are getting shorter,  and I’ve found myself in the strange pattern of going to bed about 7pm (dark!) and getting up between 3-4am (still dark!). Some of that has to due with always having to pee about that time, but then when I do the math, thats an 8-9 hour night of sleep… that makes me feel about one percent better. Actually, getting up at 4am, making coffee,  and writing for an hour or so is rather nice. As i type this I’m curled up in my quilt. It rained last night, so everything is damp, but not frosty. I’ve been out almost two weeks, its the middle of October, and I haven’t had a frost yet. Now that is interesting!

Town days are no different. I was up, writing, then walking back to the lounge at first light. I made sure all of my electronics were charged, but my old reliable Anker only had one lone light blinking…arrrrrrgggg. I have two battery pack chargers on this trip, and having one down will be a bummer…but my next few resupplies are closer together and have power options, so I’ll probably be ok. I went until Troy all on the power I started with, which is pretty good for using my phone a lot. My headlamp and InReach also use the juice. 

I met the manager of the RV Park, Doug this morning. He had just changed the opening days from Thurs-Sun to Wed-Sun so it looked like I would be getting my first restaurant meal of the trip! Doug was friendly and gracious, and he had heard I was coming. I love how news travels on trails; at some point I crossed paths with hunter friends of his and I had mentioned my rough path through the Blue Mountains because he was half expecting me. He made me a big greasy breakfast that I knew I would regret a mile down the trail, but I didn’t care. 

I was walking by 9am and headed into the Wenaha River canyon. Now there was a fire in the Wenaha five years ago (i think) and the whole 20-something mile trail was most definitely not cleared the whole way. The Intrepid Three shared their struggles in here, then I went online to find numerous trip reports about the difficulty of the hiking after about five miles. So going in I was planning to head out of the canyon after about eight miles. I don’t need to struggle when someone else already has…besides, until more trail work gets done, the BMT will need a workaround in this section. The good news about going up out of the canyon is the views…at least I hear the views will be great.

I did struggle some, and had two fords as well. I really do not see folks having to ford the Wenaha in the Spring or early Summer, it will be too high. As it was my legs and feet were numb by the time i got to the other side. Brrrrr.

It rained on and off today, but that didn’t take away from the incredible beauty of the Wenaha River. The canyon walls were hung with basalt hoodoo and castle formations. The river had deep cobble beaches and shrugs of log jams at the corners…both signs of a free flowing river…and it flows big when it wants to!! This area had a lot of flooding earlier this year, and some of the trails and roads ahead are still damaged and closed. The Umatilla had record breaking floods and a lot was lost in the raging waters this February. 

I climbed up about 300 switchbacks when I got to the Hoodoo Trail and caught my first rainbow of the trip when I neared the top.
The road walking was wet, mostly because it was raining. I didn’t really stop much more than a few minutes at a time today since the canyon was slow-going and the cold rain was not conducive to a long sit-down break, so I pulled into camp early and got warm.

My friend Melissa (Treehugger PCT 2006) gave me some of her dehydrated food to try, and I wanted to feel fancy so made her bean and cheese dip…and yeah girl!!!! So good!!! 

BMT Day 11 – 11.5 miles (193.7 miles total)

It was another early morning for me…hours before sunrise early…that probably has a lot to do with going to bed when it’s dark. A la 7:30pm.

I had road miles to Troy today, and even though the rain held off all night, as soon as I started to pack up it started again. Go figure. 

It was alright though, I donned my layers of gortex and trash bag and was ready for the day.

Again with the golden grasses in the rain. The walk was absolutely stunning. I saw big flocks of turkeys crossing the road, and deer speeding through fields so picturesque it could have been a Christmas puzzle I was working on with my mom. Pastorally perfect. 

The barns, the fields, the rolling hills, and there…in the horizon…the confluence of the Grande Ronde River and the Wenaha River. My destination. 

I’ve been to Troy before, but to be honest I don’t remember much about it. Kirk and I have both packrafted and rafted the Grande Ronde River from the Minam Store to Troy, but I didn’t experience this place by walking down to the river after backpacking through 200 miles of rugged wilderness. It was different this time, and much more powerful.

The Redmond grade I was walking down had massive switchbacks, and no joke, i think I walked in view of the canyons for almost 10 miles. I listened to the Backpacker Radio episode with Twerk (trailname), the photographer behind the gorgeous Hikertrash Vogue photos. I took Twerk out for lunch when he was in Bend on his 2018 PCT thru-hike…it was a completely random Instagram invitation, I had been following him and his photos that year, and he had posted some down and out stuff about the fires in Oregon that year, so i thought a little trail magic at Wild Rose thai restaurant might help. 

Please take a few minutes to check out Twerk’s work. I think he’s going to have more copies of his book out soon. I missed out on getting one the first time around. I won’t make that mistake again!

Ok, back to the walking…or not. On long long roadwalks like this sometimes it’s a deliberate strategy to go deep into your thoughts so you don’t feel the pain of the road. Today I didn’t stop for a break even though I walked almost 12 miles. It was raining, and it was a town day. On town days all bets are off. You can do a 20-miler by noon if you are hungry enough. Today I rolled into Troy at 10:30am.

So this place doesn’t have a store or gas station, but it does have a restaurant that is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and today is Tuesday. I knew that going in, so wasn’t crushed by the thought of not getting a real meal. But it also has an RV park with showers and laundry!!!!! (and wifi!) I didn’t need food if I could get clean. I had been offending myself with my smell all week, and could NOT WAIT to get clean. 

First quarters. I didn’t have quarters. I walked around the RV park till I saw someone outside, and wouldn’t you know it, this nice gentleman was from Bend and he happily exchanged my $5 for a bag of quarters. I couldn’t figure out how to use the shower and the folks that run the place were gone (I believe showers are $10 and you get a key), and again my new Bend friend helped me out, and just asked that I pay the kindness forward. I payed it forward into the RV park’s donation box and will do another kindness for a stranger TBD. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world? For every kind thing someone does for you, you do two in exchange…imagine the ripple effect!! Kindness for everyone!

So there I was, showered and wearing clean clothes. And…for the first time since starting the hike, not wearing any bandaids on my feet. I know! I’ve gone through boxes of bandaids on this trip. In fact friends, I haven’t been completely upfront with you. Remember on day one when I said everything went according to plan with preparations for the hike? That wasn’t exactly true. The day before Kirk and I left Bend I had an unfortunate incident with a nail and the bottom of my foot. I’ll spare you the details, but in an instant that Thursday morning I knew everything had changed. I would have to deal with an open wound on the bottom of my foot while trying to hike 17 miles a day for a month. Now, over two weeks after that day my wound had healed and (knock on wood) hasn’t posed any additional problems, but let me tell you, i had to WORK to keep that thing clean, dressed, and cared for at every break for the first week plus. I almost didn’t tell you, but I do think it’s important that people know you can heal out here. I’ve seen all manners of injuries (and had all manner of injuries from a brown recluse spider bite, to anaphylactic shock after a wasp sting, to second degree burns on my hands after a stove accident), but the real issue is acceptable pain and injury,  and unacceptable pain. I am a wilderness first responder, and have been for years, and really the best thing to do in many of these situations is to see if you can manage it in the field. In all of those above situations I (and those hikers around me) managed them in the field, well, cause we had to. But folks, it all comes down to making good decisions, and just because i hike with an open wound on the bottom of my foot doesn’t mean you have to too. Just make the decisions that are right for you. I’m glad I made my decision to continue with this hike and bring the extra supplies to manage it in the backcountry. 

Ok, back to the day.

Christina came to visit again today with my resupply package and a homemade bloody Mary (she is the best!!! I’ve never had one with real tomatoes….it makes a BIG DIFFERENCE).

Also included was a piece of carrot cake from her birthday yesterday!?!?!

I walked down the street to some free camping on the river, and pitched my tent before taking in the sunset from the rocky shore of the river. This is living.

If I let myself, I feel how sore I am. Trying not to think about it. 

BMT Day 10 – 16.8 miles (182.2 miles total)

I had a lazy morning. The rain was supposed to let up about 11am, and having sun for my cross-country descent into Joseph Canyon would make my hike infinitely more enjoyable and safe. Joseph Canyon is a crux in the hike, and if i can find the right route down, should be able to quickly cross it and find myself on an old road that switchbacks up to the rim above. 

Don’t get be wrong, i would LOVE to spend some time in Joseph Canyon, but word of copious amounts of poison ivy is already making me itchy, and I haven’t even gotten there yet. 

Kirk and I packrafted a 40-mile stretch of the Minam River (a river on the NW side of the Wallowas) a number of years ago with Grant,  the owner of the Minam Store. When I heard about the epic bushwacking, I called up Grant because he had mentioned multiple trips in Joseph Canyon. Turns out he’s hiked into the canyon several ways, and i put him in touch with Jared to figure out some other options for me to hike. 

This morning by the time i finally decided to hike, I was already on the edge of Joseph Canyon. I could look straight up the canyon to the Wallowa Mountains and their new snow caps. This is all Nez Perce land. I would be walking into the canyon where Chief Joseph was born.

I dallied on the way to the descent, taking photos and trying not to worry too much about getting into the canyon. My first move would be to walk a mile on a ridge via a “gap” in the rim rock…I didn’t see the gap, but when I saw the ridge I got really excited. I could do this. The next move would be to choose the right ridge to hike down to the water. Whatever way I took it looked like I would need to navigate around some rocky cliffs, but the line I could see had openings, so looked doable.

The wind was fierce and strong, but the sun was out, and I buttoned up the hatches and got started.

The ridge, or knifes edge, or cat walk….whatever you want to call it, was amazing. Probably the best part of the hike so far. The view into the canyons was stunning, and there were plenty of spots to safely stop and enjoy everything that surrounded me. I did have my mantra going on: one step at a time. Be intentional. 
I crossed over to the end of the ridge and started down what I thought was the right shoulder….it was open and got steep. I took small steps and made sure something was planted before taking the next step. At some point I realized I was going down a different ridge than I had scouted, but it seemed to go, so I did too.

Ugg, cue the “Hello! Wake up! Time to make another decision!” voice in my head, but no. I kept walking.

It got steep. Real steep, and I finally realized this path did not go. It ended in cliffs. I looked up and over to the ridge I wanted to be on, and decided I needed to climb up to get over. And of course, game trails saved the day. I found a path some loping deer probably took, and gingerly made one step at a time on the steep side hill before I got to the correct ridge and to relative safety.
I don’t think i was ever in danger, I’m just dissapointed that I didnt pay attention when I needed to. However I do not think everyone will be game for such a descent, and definitely not had it been raining and the grasses and mud slick. 100% no!

Down at the bottom I walked up to an abandoned camper trailer. How in the world??? There was a road that I would walk out of here, but whatever road had been in the bottom of the canyon was washed out. And it made me a little sad there was a road at all…thinking of the thousands of years of lives that had probably enjoyed this spot before the modern age bulldozed a road thousands of feet to the bottom of this special place, hauled in a camper, and left it. The windows were smashed, the trailer was junk. 

I walked upstream to find a way to cross, and finally just walked in the water with everything on to the other side and found the road I would walk up.

I took a break before the long climb to the top. Had I to do it again I’d spend a night in the canyon. 

Up top I popped out at the Rimrock Inn. Closed. Kirk and i had stayed at the Rimrock Inn eight years ago on my birthday. We slept in teepee on the edge of Joseph Canyon after our first packrafting trip on the Minam River. I remember a wonderful steak dinner, wine, and a special birthday dessert. But now they were closed. I am getting to the point where I need to bathe something fierce, and had held out hope even though the website was down when I checked if I could stop and stay.

I walked. I walked through the very quiet town of Flora. More buildings were fallen-down relics of a pervious prosperity than not. It was strange and beautiful. 

I walked a while longer and found shelter in a stand of trees. Tomorrow, Troy where i hear there is a laundromat and thats it. I’ll take it!!

BMT Day 9 – 17.6 miles (165.4 total)

It rained off and on during the night, but I stayed toasty warm and dry. I’ll do a detailed post when I’m done about strategies to hike in the wet and cold. I’m carrying lots more gear than I would on a summer hike, but all these layers mean multiple redundancies to keep me and my gear dry.

The first miles in the morning were along roads dripping with rain, but I was able to put my my umbrella on standby for the most part. 

When Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams came on, I was instantly transported to a place where I was cruising on my skateboard, not a care in the world. Oh wait…that wasn’t me. Have you seen this video? I’ve probably watched it 100 times at least. I think it has gone viral for a reason, the pure feeling of freedom and lighthearted joy is what we all need right now. 

I did my best to get a flow going on those rarely used roads, and if I had an audience for my antics, it was a few chipmunks and maybe the odd dear hiding from all the hunters out here. Kirk did get me a longboard for my birthday this year, so I’ll be working on my skating with one particular sequence in mind….

All of the walking was on roads today, so I let my mind wander. 

I stared listening to a Barry Lopez audio book last night….that language! It’s amazing, and his passion and poetry for the natural world resonates deeply with me. I had the opportunity to hear him speak in Bend last year for the release of his newest book Horizon. That was actually the first time i had read his work…I’m not sure how that happened, I tend to gravitate towards writers like him. I know he lives in Finn Rock on the Mckenzie River. We boated past Finn Rock probably four times with our friends Brooke and Adryon this year (they are learning how to IK! How exciting!) But Finn Rock is a few miles from Blue River…and those areas were devastated in the Labor Day fires….does anyone know if Barry Lopez is ok? 

The sun came out….it rained….it rained while the sun was out…it hailed…the sun came out. Repeat. I might have gotten my tent more wet when trying to dry it out over lunch. 

The rolling roads are taking me due west to the next river canyons that are so important to this area. 

I had some reception during the day, so posted a few more photos to Instagram. I’ll do a big upload of photos when I get home in November, but for now the Insty is a way to see some pics. 

BMT Day 8 – 22.6 miles (147.5 miles total)

The rain was due to start today. 

I was up when the sky began to lighten and transferred the food box I had mailed to Christina into my pack. The rain hadn’t started yet, so I packed up my tent and gear while everything was dry. The forecast forecasted 5 days of rain, so I tried to stay ahead of the wet. The snow levels were dropping, but so was I. For the next few days I would walking between 4,000-5,000′ on a series of dirt roads until I dropped down into Joseph Canyon, hopefully for a quick crossing and up the other side.

The Intrepid Three had gone a longer route into Joseph Canyon and came back with tales of bushwacking through blackberry thickets and poison ivy. I didn’t need any part of that, so we scoped out a few other ways in. None of them look easy…but that puzzle is for another day.

Christina came over bearing another gift…a smoothie! It was the sort of magic exlier filled with ingredients that make your body want to be better…and it helped. The afternoon of sitting and eating the good food that my trail angel brought had toughened up my blisters and eased the ache in my shins. Even partial days off can be a life saver on a long hike as your body knits itself back together again.

I had a couple of route choices in here, and after hearing from Christina,  decided to take the longer more southerly routes. Why? It would take me to the Zumwalt Prarie, which as I came to understand, is the last of the paulouse (sp??) prarie left in the country. All the rest has been converted into wheat fields. (Someone may need to fact check me here…I should have been taking notes when Christina was talking, and now a day of walking may have alter the facts a bit in my brain.) A chance to walk through the last of a particular ecosystem? That’s a good reason for me.

Christina decided to walk a few miles with me, so we set off under a still-dry sky. She is a wealth of information and good ideas…I’m glad she offered to resupply me again in Troy so we have another chance to connect.
Right after she decided to turn around, the first few drops started to fall. I pulled over under some trees to switch to my rain gear. I should be in good shape to walk through cold rain and snow on this trip, and was pretty happy that I was carrying all that extra gear. I had shoved a synthetic vest in my resupply box, and now I could tell, that vest would be a key piece of gear to keep my core warm in the cold wet.

The walking was quiet in the dripping ponderosa pine forest. I encountered an unknown access problem on one of the roads, so had to find a way around. My cross-country route was also blocked, so I headed north to walk around. The detour added a cool five miles to the day, but it’s something I expect from time to time, and a small price to pay when groundtruthing a new route. 

It rained all day save for a few minutes when I was on top of Cayuse Ridge. The native prairie areas were beautiful, especially in the misty rain that made the golden grasses shine.

I was ready to call it a day after a few more miles, so found a little perch for my tent that would be out of the gusty winds that were expected over night.

It’s a little more work to relax when arriving at camp wet and in the rain, but before long I was warm and ensconced in down and tent.

BMT Day 7 – 13.2 miles (124.9 miles total)

I was up just before the sun, drinking coffee and writing. When day broke I was once again surrounded by incredible beauty. This trail so far has been world class in views and terrain. It’s not easy, but then again, most things worth doing aren’t easy.

I touched the Imnaha river again. Remember night one when I descended from Hawkins Pass to sleep near the headwaters? Well here I was again near the end of the Imnaha’s run to the Snake River. This river does have a road alongside it the whole way, but I would love to come back with boats and experience this landscape from moving water.

The problem with hiking down from the top of these ridges is that you have to go up the other side. I was looking at a climb of over 4,000′ in just a few miles. By the time I set off it was late morning, and for October, the temps were in the 70’s….all things leading to a sweat-fest of a climb. The first marker i saw was for the Nee Me Poo Trail, which is what the Nez Perce call themselves…to really put this climb and moment in place, I was listening to Thunder in the Mountains, the heartwrenching story of Cheif Joseph’s attempt to keep his tribe’s homelands of the Wallowa Valley for his people when homesteaders started trespassing in the mid to late 1800s. Ultimately they were pushed out; this trail i was walking was part of their exodus. (BTW, remember that i finished the CDT at the Cheif Joseph Mountain trailhead on the Canadian border? Yep, the Indians marched from right here, their homelands that are at this moment under my feet, to Canada via Montana). I have a lot of rage and anger for what “progress” and “manifest destiny” did to the people we thought were inferior. I have a lot more reading and thinking to do, and my understanding of the Nee Me Poo people is just beginning. This history is part of the Blue Mountains Trail. It’s almost too much to take in, but my hope for the development of this route is to give hikers a reading and resource list so we can be learning as we are moving through this landscape. It’s past time for us as hikers to engage in a deeper way with the places we are walking through.

So back to the climb. It was brutal, but actually there was a lot of shade, there were berry bushes, apples, and water. It was gorgeous. 

When I was almost back on top I collapsed onto the ground in a puddle of my own sweat. I lay flat out for a good half an hour before I considered moving again.

Fortunately the next few miles were on a blissfully graded old road (I LOVE a road walk after a hard section of trail).
I was meeting Christina from the Greater Hells Canyon Council at Buckhorn Campground in a few hours. I had mailed her a resupply box, and she offered to come out and camp with me for the night. Company! Food! More bandaids!

I got to the campground and chatted with a few hunters who immediately offered me cold drinks and various other luxuries. I hobbled down to a spot by a deliciously cold spring, and proceeded to sit and air out my blisters until Christina drove up.

What a night! She made amazing food, brought fresh fruit and veggies, chips and salsa, wine…it was a wonderful evening and I know I connected with another kindred spirit trying to navigate this world with intention and grace. So far the people I have met on this hike give me hope, and its exactly what i need right now. 

BMT Day 6 – 19.5 miles (111.7 miles total)

Every day my feet feel better and my body stronger. Today it might be the intoxicating cocktail of a cup of french press coffee, turmeric cashews, and a few vitamin I, but I’ll take it! (tumeric is anti-inflammatory…i put a little in my oatmeal every morning too).

I love my body the most when I’m thru-hiking. 

The morning brought a quiet walk along the edge of the world before i turned left to continue on the ridge; the Snake River below also began a left turn on its journey to the sea.

I walked through meadows and forests, a number of springs flowed into troughs and I spied more hunting camps in the thick woods. As i was approaching Lord Flat I remembered a note that Whitney had passed on after he hiked through…to stay on the runway because the trail/road disappeared there. Just about that time I look up to see a plane circling….an active runway I see!

As i rounded to corner I saw a group of hunters eagerly awaiting the plane. The runway was little more than a two-track in the grasses, but sure enough there was a windsock. As the plane landed I put on my best smile and asked the group if I could lighten the load by taking some cold drinks or snacks off their hands. One guy went to a tote and brought back four clif bars. Ahhhhh, thanks guys…(but not exactly what i had in mind…did you drink all the beer?)

As they loaded the plane I quickly walked down the runway to another faint two-track headed in the direction i wanted to go, and soon after the plane took off. I could see two people on horseback heading towards me and when they got within shouting distance I joked that it was the first traffic jam I had seen on the trip. 

Jim and Paul were frequent visitors to this spot and I had just passed their hunting camp, although they weren’t really hunting on this trip, just enjoying the warm fall. We chatted for a bit and they invited me to their camp for elk steaks for dinner, and as much as i would have taken them up on their offer had it been the end of the day, there were miles to make. 

Jim said that i was the first backpacker he had seen in that spot in the years he had been coming up here, but, mentioned that sometimes when he is riding on other trails hikers are openly pissed off when they see horses. That’s not cool. Reason #1??? It’s mostly the horse packers that use these trails, and CLEAR these trails. Almost every packer has a saw on their saddle, and since our agencies haven’t had the resources to prioritize trail maintenance, it is left to us as users to clear the trails, and equestrians do. (I could go on and on about the state of trail maintenance in this country…i know a lot of people who would love a good paying job in the woods all summer to clear trails, but the agencies cant maintain everything in their purview, and as such primarily rely on volunteers and nonprofit groups to do the work. What that means is people either do it for free, or it doesn’t get done. Lets fund our agencies so they can hire people and pay them good money to maintain trails instead of relying on the public to do it). 

Jim tossed me an apple as we said our goodbyes….now THATS some trail magic! Fresh fruit! He also said I could help myself to some water in his truck that I would pass on my walk down the next drainage. A true trail angel.

Thru-hiking has taught me the valuable lesson over the years that what you put out into the world you get back…it works with people and the natural world. It all feels reciprocal. Maybe thats the secret…life is all about your relationship with the world around you….every part of your world…including yourself. (Hiking gets my brain ruminating like nothing else).

I traversed some skinny trail that dropped off steeply and couldn’t imagine Jim and Paul had just rode this on their horses. I don’t think I could trust the animal to walk it better than I could…but then again, I dont ride horses.

I started a steep switchbacking descent next; right now the word I have to define the climbs and descents in this section: grueling. It’s no wonder really, I’ve been walking above the deepest canyon in the country. Getting to the bottom is going to be difficult on foot no matter how you slice it.

But! The end of the switchbacks that had me slipping and falling on my butt several times was water. A creek. A creek with water. I sat down in a cloud of fatigue and willed there to be a nice cobble beach where i could access the water and shed the last four days of dirt and sweat. I walked more, and thank you world! I found my watery bath.

Refreshed and the least stinky I had been in days, I ambled a few more miles before setting up another cowboy camp on a bluff overlooking the stunning canyon. There is lots of bear poop now that I’m in a canyon, so thats something else to keep in mind.

BMT Day 5 – 22.5 miles (92.2 miles total)

I know the vegetation has been changing as i hike north along the Hells Canyon rim, but this morning i noticed I was surrounded by sagebrush. It’s started like to look a lot like the high desert I know.

A note for future hikers: most of the springs up here have been flowing to some degree. This also explains why it is such an ecological hot spot…year round water is important in that way. Its pretty amazing considering what a dry year it has been.

The walking this morning was on trail, and it was easy and gentle. When I started dropping down to Freezeout Saddle (I’m now on the Western Rim Trail), I think I encountered the second best views on the trip. The wind was rippling through the tall grasses, the trail was illuminated in the morning light against the golden hills, and the Imnaha Canyon and its many tributaries were crystal clear, away from that Idaho smoke on the other side of the ridge. There were cows, which left braided trails everywhere, but they couldn’t detract from my moments of awe on that walk. I put on some music by Arvo Part and literally floated down….not really, the view was so magnificent and the trail so narrow that i could either stop and look, or hike and focus on my feet. It was brilliant anyway.

I took a long break at Freezeout Saddle, my jaw hinged open half the time as I stared down the Saddle Creek drainage. There is a trail down there, and next time I come out I want to hike into the canyon. There are infinite ways you could connect this ridge trail with trails that drop to either side. I could truly spend a lifetime out here without hiking the same thing twice.

When I’m on a break I frequently study the maps and try to understand what my next hour or two looks like, and what to expect. That is very important out here because if i expect to walk downhill for a mile and then turn right at a spring and that doesn’t happen, i stop, look at my map, and pull out my phone and turn on GaiaGPS or CalTopo to check myself. I probably do that 50 times a day. It would be so easy to get distracted and end up thousands of feet, or miles, from where I really needed to be.

Actually this is the first time I’m using the Cal Topo app for Android. It doesn’t load as fast as Gaia, but when i leave note about trail conditions or track my bushwacks it automatically updates the web map I’m using each time I turn off airplane mode and have cell reception. It’s pretty amazing! Instant feedback to anyone who is watching! I asked Kirk to see if the map was populating and he repeated a few of my comments back to me, “no good,” and “terrible bushwack,” and I think there was a “why?” In there too. 🤣

I had a big climb out of Freezeout Saddle up to another major road that had campgrounds and the popular Hat Point lookout. I put on another grind song (today I started with Warpaint’s Disco//very). I didnt make it to the top without stopping, but i can feel my endurance improving. 

I finished the Timber Wars podcast when I was up top on the road, and if that won’t get your blood boiling about how we and our government have been treating our forests in the west, i don’t know what will. Its an excellent poscast that I would suggest you all listen to. One of the producers is Ed Jahn of Oregon Field Guide who produced my ODT episode a few years ago. Great guy and I really respect his work.

I was back on the Western Rim Trail in mid afternoon and was shocked to see a ton of cars at the teailhead. I guess this is a popular stretch…and i soon saw why. The trail walked the edge of the rim to stunning views all around.

I passed a few hunters, and when the second couple I passed slowed to ask me about my pack, I stopped to chat. Would you believe what happened next? I don’t think I still believe it.

I was explaining what I was doing, this father/daughter couple had already mentioned they had thru-hiked the PCT a few years ago, so I knew they would understand what we were trying to do with the Blue Mountains Trail. The dad then asked if i had heard of the Oregon Desert Trail, of course I had to tell him I had been living and breathing the ODT for the past five years, and he says, “I’ve emailed you, I wanted to hike it this year.” Not only has he emailed me. When he told me his first name I knew exactly who he was and knew his last name. Even stranger? In one of the emails he had sent me a picture from the Hells Canyon Rim in winter…about 20 feet from where we were standing at the moment. Woah. Chills. And get this, they are not local. Cameron lives in Salem and his daughter Amanda in Portland. And we all crossed paths up here.

What a world! And if that doesn’t tell me I’m exactly where I need to be, I don’t know what else does. The world is a amazing place.

BMT Day 4 – 20.9 miles (69.7 total)

It’s day 4 and I still haven’t settled into life away from all the stresses of this year. I’m starting to crack though; nature is having her way with me…slowly soothing and comforting the 2020 anxieties.

I am not pitting myself against nature on this hike, I am hiking with nature. I am rediscovering my place in this natural world.

I woke early…before sunrise early, so I worked on my blog and read a bit. The sun didn’t come, and it still didn’t come. Sunrise is almost 7am now!! I have just about 12 hours of dark, a guess ill be doing a lot of reading this month if I can’t manage to sleep that long. 

I watch the light finally spill over Hells Canyon and made a second cup of coffee. Finally i was jittery enough that i needed to walk off the excess caffeine, so i hit the road to head up to the legit Hells Canyon Overlook, complete with pit toilets and informational signs. 

Most of the day i would be walking on gravel roads that straddle the Snake and Imnaha River canyons. Very few cars passed, and when i got to a section that I thought would be trail, found it was still road. Then I got to a section that I thought would be road, but it was gated, so was a trail on an old road. Regardless, the walking was easy and I didnt have to wonder where I was at all during the day.

I know I will be up here a few more days and I finally looked at the databook and realized this was one long 52-mile ridgewalk! If you love ridgewalking like I do, you might have an idea how excited that makes me.

Even though the walking was “easy,” I still had to grind. What does that mean you might be wondering? Grinding is what i call hiking up a hill, incline or mountain, without stopping. You put yourself in a low gear and walk at a steady pace as long as you can. If you want to stop, walk a little slower and keep going. Eventually you will be able to hike farther and faster if you make it a practice grind regularly. I find music can help, and today this song did it for me. 

Towards the end of the day I was filling up water at a spring when I heard a rustle behind me and a hunter materialized out of the woods. He came over and we chatted for a few…he and his friends had been packed in by some horsepackers for a week up here. There were some other guys camped near by on their own hunting trip too. He was nice enough and it was good to speak outloud for the first time today.

I made my way a little further before setting up with a view of the Seven Devils mountains in Idaho.